Every Sunday morning there is one ritual I observe almost without fail. I’m not talking about going to church (although that’s usually where it takes place). Each week I walk through the door knowing that a certain someone is waiting somewhere inside. As soon as we spot each other, we fling our arms out wide with silly grins and get ready for the best hug of the week.
This is no sissy-split-second-pat-on-the-back hug. These epic hugs last at least thirty seconds. You know the point where most people start to feel uncomfortable and awkward? We blast gleefully past that point. At some stage one of us will ask the other, “How are you?” and the reply follows: “Better now!” Almost fourteen years old and a few inches taller than me, my friend’s daughter knows instinctively what Neuroscience is now telling us is fact: touch is essential for our well-being.
It seems that the more connected we get online, the more disconnected we become in real life; but we are hard-wired to touch and be touched! A recent article on time.com shares that “we need to feel love and acceptance from others. When we don’t it’s painful. And I don’t mean “awkward” or “disappointing.” I mean actually painful.” Safe touch from people we trust releases wonderful hormones such as oxytocin (which increases trust, healing, bonding) and serotonin (which regulates mood, appetite, sleep, and improves general well-being).
One of my two love languages is touch (I’ll give you two guesses what the other one is!). Over the past three years I’ve gone from encountering hundreds of people per day in a fast food restaurant (the first one that pops into your head? That’s the one I worked in) to a 8-14 person office to working from home. I’ve made the progression from being touched out (which for me is, admittedly, rare!) to being, largely, touch-deprived. After a week of phone calls and brief appointments, Sundays are heaven for me. I touch anyone who stands still long enough. I hold every baby going. I hug, I play with hair, I hold hands, I wrap my arms around shoulders and waists. People think I’m trying to comfort them. That’s partly true; but I’m also comforting myself.
As I hug touch-deprived female students who hastily apologise for hugging so long, I smile and quote Virginia Satir, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Then we squeeze harder.
Want to support a missionary beyond praying and giving? Next time you see me, take 5 seconds to give me a hug, a high-five, or, if we’re really good friends, let me lean against you when we sit beside each other. You’ll be able to hear my love tank going glug-glug-glug as it fills up.